Monday, February 16, 2009

Elements and Principles of Art: Shape

A continuation in the discussion of Elements and Principles of Art in knitting...

Art Element Definition: The external surface or outline of an object or body.

"Object or body" - knitting's the object, and you're the body. And it's all about shape. (and bird is the word! Yes yes, stupid joke.)

Onto the funbits!

I've decided to use examples from the knitting mag giant Knitty to illustrate a few basic "shape" concepts. There is a lot more that I could say on this topic (sleeve shape, neckline shape, length of garment, etc...) but I fear of exhausting the reader with my tendency to verbosity. I'll stick to the overall garment/torso shape!

Part the first: Ease.
The great old topic of ease. I like me my negative ease, because it's a lazy-knitter's way out of the conundrum of creating a flattering garment shape. If your knit hugs your body, then your silhouette will generally be flattering. Don't believe me? Think of it this way: unless you want to look like a box, cube, or other rectilinear form which is not found in human nature, then perhaps you should stay away from tops that'll create that shape on your body. Denying the curvilinear forms of your body doesn't particularly flatter. Take as an example the knit on the right, Yosemite. Great demonstration of negative ease.

But don't get the idea that I'm totally down on positive ease! Pictured left is Sea Tangles. Note how this knit (through a lovely combination of yarn choice in colour and weight) does not deny the body shape, though it has positive ease. It can elegantly disguise parts of ones' torso, if one chooses to do so, while at the same time allowing your shape to exist beyond the ethereal loops and stitches of yarn. It is not a heavy curtain of fabric: its lightness is key.

Part the second: Waist definition. Photobucket

"But I don't like my waist!" You're not looking in the right place. Your waist is where you put it. Take for instance the shape created by defining a woman's "natural" waistline, in the knit pictured right, Starsky. Nice clear line (there's another element!) straight across the smallest part of (this particular person's) torso. If you want to emphasizes your waist at the "natural" waistline, then a belt is a lovely way to create this silhouette shape. Another way of creating this shape is by emphasis (that's another design element for another post!) Clicky the linky here, and you'll see a good example, in the waist-ribbing of Cherie Amour.

PhotobucketAnother place to place your waist is right under the bustline. This works out nicely for those who aren't interested in definition at their natural waist. Take a look at Belle Epoque (pictured left). High waistlines allow the garment to fall away from the body, disguising most of your torso while still allowing your body to have a shapely silhouette. Another great Knitty example is Dahlia.

Part the third: Shape Echo

Line (as discussed last week) can work wonderfully with shape by constructing an illusionary contour to redirect one's eye. Shapes can be implied - shapes that aren't even there in reality, or shapes that are perhaps not as pronounced as you can make them appear. PhotobucketLooking at Twist + Shout (pictured right) one will note right away how the negative space of the bottom triangle points up towards the waist, echoing the bottom-half of an hourglass (the shape so oft desired). There is also the texture (that's another element!) of the cables, pointing your eye up in a truncated triangle. Great design to illustrate this concept! If you'd like a gander at another example, head on over to Knitty and check out Mr Greenjeans. This design has the added bonus of the negative-space of the top half of the hourglass.

Shape is fun - go out and play! :)


Sarah said...

I am really enjoying these posts. :)

Charity said...

Another good post, I can hardly wait for the next one!

Walden said...

I really am loving your elements and principles posts, especially as a future art teacher it is great to see people applying these to something other than 'fine art'. :)

Hilary said...

Ah yes, the place the waist where you want it trick. I need to do that more often! Thanks for yet another informative and thought-provoking post!

Susan said...

Thanks for this post. I never really took the time to think about shape. I really like working with negative ease, also. Before doing this, I always came out with boxy looking sweaters that weren't really wearable.

A Homely Heroine said...

Another great post, cleverly illustrated, and very educational! I'm really enjoying your course : D

Loulek said...

I love the Belle Epoque and the Sea Tangles pullover is very original!